Many of you know my frustration in practicing medicine.
But while frustrating, this is also a funny story I have to share with you.
As I was sitting at my computer looking forward to my next patient, I saw the words, “basil dollops” as her reason for coming in.
Now I know that basil is a spice we use in cooking. I also know that a dollop is a small amount that is used in some of my mother’s old recipes.
So I couldn’t figure out why I was going to talk to this patient about a recipe class when I can barely turn on a stove. Surely, she was in the wrong place…
So, I didn’t want to keep the patient waiting so I went into the room with trepidation.
I asked this dear sweet patient what she was here for today and she told me she had NASAL POLYPS, not BASIL DOLLOPS! I was thrilled to learn this as I am much better at medicine than I am at cooking.
While this is quite humorous it is quite serious in that miscommunication occurs throughout my whole day – and constantly.
Take a peek behind my curtain… mistakes would be funny if they weren’t deadly…
The woman whose chart says she is pregnant even though she’s 91-years-old.
The man who had his last period 3 months ago.
The patient who gets mad when I ask him how his diabetes is, and he tells me he’s never had diabetes in his life.
The child whose chart says an boy and I look…”Oh my! We have a girl!”
You bring in your dad who has some memory loss and you tell the front desk, but no one ever mentions it to me. So we never discuss it and you leave frustrated because I didn’t address this.
The receptionist does not know medical terminology and therefore will write down anything that he or she thinks or hears.
This is also true of the call center. So when you call in to a “doctor’s office” you may be calling some place in “La-la-lou land” and they have no clue what you are talking about.
For example I had a patient who I had given an antibiotic to. She called back to the office (i.e. call center) to say that she now had diarrhea. The message was MIS-taken that she has gotten worse and was told she should probably go to the emergency room.
One of the side effects of this antibiotic is diarrhea. I told her that she may get it and if so, to call back and I would change it. So she wasn’t asking to be redirected to the emergency room she was only asking that I change her antibiotic because this one had caused diarrhea.
She ended up in the emergency room because of MIScommunication. Per the message, La-la-lou land thought she was getting worse.
… how to solve medical mistakes…
First of all when you call a doctor’s office (i.e.. call center) know you are talking to someone who has no medical training.
State the reason you’re calling and get the name of the person you’re talking to and then ask him or her to read back to you your message.
When I was still working with clients as a patient advocate, I called the doctor’s office (i.e.. call center) and gave a message about a CT scan that was already ordered but my client’s radiologist needed it ordered WITH CONTRAST DYE for better, more accurate results.
I told the gentleman on the phone what was going on and asked him to read me back the message. His comment was “I haven’t written it yet.” I told him I would wait while he wrote it.
When he read it back to me he stated that the patient was calling because she needed a CT scan. That was not the case at all. I knew that if we left the message like that, the doctor would have reordered another CT scan STILL without the contrast dye.
More time wasted, more phone calls….
We get messages like this all the time in the office. We do not know what to do with them; we don’t not know how wrong they are.
Miscommunication is the #2 cause of medical error behind medications.
Keep yourself and your loved ones safe.
Write down what you are going to say.
Have the person taking the message or adding it to your chart, read it back to you.
From now on, when you think, “Doctors don’t know what I’m talking about.”